MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) from overuse are common occupational health problems that cause pain, functional loss and loss of work time. The aim of the present study was to determine whether a relationship exists between the severity of early-onset overuse-related MSDs of the upper extremity and serum levels of IL-1β (interleukin-1β), TNF-α (tumour necrosis factor-α), IL-6 (interleukin-6) and CRP (C-reactive protein). Twenty-two subjects with upper-extremity MSDs due to overuse for no longer that 12 weeks were stratified according to the severity of upper-extremity signs and symptoms as determined by a UBMA (upper-body musculoskeletal assessment). Nine asymptomatic subjects also participated. Serum cytokines were analysed using ELISA, and CRP was analysed using a laser nephelometry technique. CRP was strongly correlated, and TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6 were moderately correlated, with UBMA scores. Only CRP and TNFα were significantly associated with UBMA scores in an ordinal logistic regression analysis in which age and BMI (body mass index) were covariates. These results are of clinical importance as they suggest that early-onset overuse-related MSDs may have an inflammatory component. The possibility of using a combination of serum biomarkers to follow the progression of overuse-related MSDs or their response to therapeutic intervention may be of interest to clinical practitioners and should be the focus of future research.

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